THE ICON: Professor Longhair
THE LEGACY: Henry Roeland Byrd still watches over musicians from above the stage at Tipitina’s, which was named in honor of one of his songs. His oversized image hangs there, but many people who see it may not know his name. They know him as Professor Longhair, or Fess — the New Orleans “rhumba boogie”-style piano player who influenced Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and others and left us with iconic recordings of “Go to the Mardi Gras” and “Big Chief” that are as much a part of Mardi Gras as beads and doubloons.
THE ARTIST: Jeff Morgan, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “Byrd’s idiosyncratic style is a rhythmic jambalaya reflecting the freewheeling, good-time spirit of the Crescent City. Professor Longhair soaked up influences from close-at-hand sources — barrelhouse boogie-woogie, Caribbean rhythms like the rumba (many of his relatives were West Indian) and the Crescent City’s “second line” parade rhythms — but the way he pieced these elements together is what made his style such a marvel of fluidity and drive.” — Professor Longhair’s bio on the website for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 1992.